Ghana’s gas curse – Climate Weekly

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A customer buys phone credit in Ghana (Photo credit: IMF/Andrew Caballero Reynolds)


Of all climate topics, the role of gas in Africa is among the most divisive.

Chloé Farand’s eye-opening report from Ghana adds to this debate by showing how ruinously expensive it can be to import shipped gas.

The heavily-indebted nation is planning a 17-year agreement with Shell to ship gas in through a new UK and German-backed terminal.

Critics describe this deal as a rope hanging around Ghana’s neck and ask why the government hasn’t learned its lessons from a previous bad gas deal.

That “take or pay contract” was signed when Ghana was suffering power cuts in the mid-2010s. It has since pushed up electricity prices and left many Ghanaians now choosing between power and food.

It also caused an over-supply of gas which dampened enthusiasm for renewables and for capturing the gas which oil companies burn as a waste product.

And it’s not just Ghana whose economy has been damaged by dependence on fossil fuel imports. Just ask Sri Lankans. Or Europeans last winter.

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Britain’s climate election

Brits like me have tended to look on smugly as the climate culture war dominates elections in places like the US, Australia and Brazil.

We’ve tended to have a relative cross-party consensus, at least rhetorically, between the main parties – helped by a legally-binding net zero target and the climate change committee.

But, after a surprise election victory in suburban London was credited to anti-air pollution measures, the Conservative government has decided it can save itself from electoral annihilation by making climate action an issue in next year’s election.

By cutting climate finance and backing oil and gas production and polluting vehicles, they’re seeking to contrast their “pragmatic” climate action with the opposition Labour Party’s scary, expensive, radical policies.

But pollsters told Climate Home that this could backfire as “British voters remain one of the most pro-climate in the Western world”.

The real risk is that it scares the Labour Party – whose current leader’s principles are notoriously flexible – into dropping their promise to stop issuing oil and gas licenses.

That would be a shame. Since the launch of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance two and a half years ago, the handful of countries committing to stop pumping oil has not grown.

As a decent-sized oil and gas producer, the UK joining would be a huge boost to the agenda and with it the hopes of keeping global warming to 1.5C.

Read more on: Africa | Fossil Fuels | | |